On the latest Global Pulse episode, host Erin Coker examines media coverage of the evolving relations between China and the US. Watch the episode below and share your thoughts!
While this week’s Global Pulse, called “Chimerica,” looks at what the two nations share, there are plenty of points of friction between them. The U.S. regularly criticizes China’s human rights record, and now China has published a report equally critical of the U.S., for “destabilizing the world economy and meddling in other countries' affairs.”
The United States is in a tricky situation. On the one hand, the U.S. wants to encourage human rights and increased democracy in China; on the other hand it fears alienating China, its most prominent trading partner, which holds upwards of $800 billion of American debt. So how has the U.S. walked this delicate tightrope so far? Not very well.
Perhaps the best recent example of the awkward U.S.-China relationship is the controversial meeting between President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama. Most in the west see the Dalai Lama as a man of peace who dares to stand up to the might of the Chinese government. Not surprisingly, China considers him to be a threat to a unified China, due to his advocacy for the independence of Tibet. They also see him as a pawn of western nations bent on embarrassing the Chinese government. Even some western media sources have criticized the motives of the Dalai Lama. In an editorial from the UK’s Guardian, Brendan O’Neill describes the Dalai Lama as a poseur who “once auctioned his Land Rover on eBay for $80,000 and has even done an advert for Apple.” He also charges that the Dalai Lama “has [been] used as a battering ram by western governments in their culture war with China.”
But celebrities like Richard Gere and Sharon Stone are prominent followers of the Dalai Lama who advocate his return to Tibet, and American Buddhists have made some of his books pop-religion best sellers in America, so there was tremendous pressure on Obama to meet with the Dalai Lama. Although the meeting was carefully planned to try to not offend either side, it ended up offending both. Initially Obama refused to meet, citing the need to meet with China’s Hu Jintao first: human rights activists and western media called it a snub. When the meeting finally did happen it took place in a closed room without cameras. The Chinese were angry that the meeting took place at all.
Whether this and other rights issues are geat walls that will ultimately divide the two nations, or just side roads on the long march to cooperation remains unknown.